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The danger of not having health insurance

By Edited Jan 18, 2014 0 0

Some of you may be familiar with the two co-workers I have written about before. I find them interesting as this pair of sisters has never left home. They have neither friends nor hobbies, do not make eye contact or conversation, even when people speak directly to them. The younger one, who is nearly 30, is especially stubborn about refusing to acknowledge people. It is as if, in her little world, making people feel silly for talking to her is the last thing she can control. And control it she does, as I have seen the look of hurt and confusion cross the faces of our customers from time to time when they are naïve enough to ask "Lucky" for assistance.

I'll call the elder sister "Dopey," because she isn't very bright. You can tell her exactly what to do, but one can never assume she is capable of connecting the dots. For example, for 10 years she did not answer the phone at the post office if it rang. Then she surprised us all by starting to answer it about four months ago. The problem was, if she doesn't understand a request, she won't ask for guidance. She will answer willy-nilly any query with a yes, whether or not it makes sense, whether or not it seems legal, whether or not she has identified the person on the other end of the phone. Scary. I get the feeling that if you called up and asked this woman to mail your parcels to Belgium she would do it, postage be damned, the post master would just have to make up the short when he noticed it.

Neither of these two sisters can drive. Apparently neither has been to the dentist in their life, and probably not to a doctor since well-baby check up. I take it back, one time once, Lucky ended up in the emergency room. Poor thing passed out at work and was taken by ambulance. Although she confided to me many years later that the doctor in the emergency room told her she had suffered from an epileptic seizure, she apparently had never told anyone else. The previous post master was under the impression she had hit her head and was entitled to workers' compensation. Another person who was working with her at the time admitted to me she thought that it was an injury as well. In the intervening years Dopey had done nothing to treat the problem or educate herself on the possible side effects. With her withdrawn nature, it had not even occurred to her to mention what the doctor had told her to her parents or sister with whom she lives. She was as surprised as anyone when she suffered a second seizure five years later.

As a person without health insurance myself, I can see where this is a tough spot for her. The condition can now be classified as pre-existing, with records to boot. Given that she works only 3 hours a day she can't afford out of her meager salary for blood tests or hospital care. And yet, it seems sad that she doesn't care to do the bare minimum of self advocacy. She experienced her last health challenge with the same bland equanimity. She raised her shirt sleeves one day and revealed open sores yellow and red and rashes up both arms. "What do you think this is?" She asked me.

If I didn't know better I would have immediately guessed poison ivy or poison oak. But how could a person who spends all day inside get such a thing? And she told me it covered her legs as well. "It's a rash isn't it?" She asked. It certainly looked like one. I asked her if she had any allergies she knew of, she said no. I questioned her on stress, and she said no. I asked her if she had tried new laundry detergent recently or eaten any new kinds of food. The answers were all negative. I racked my brain for what it could be. I suggested an over the counter anti-itch lotion if the itching were making her crazy, although I wondered to myself if she even had access to stores. I suppose she could order things on-line, since she will not speak to people, but only if she has a debit or credit card. Once again, highly unlikely given what is known about the lifestyle of Dopey and Lucky. Their father, and immigrant with a thick accent seems particularly leery of Western institutions such as banks and taxes. When she was alive their mother had conceded to me how in all their years together he had only worked "under the table."

When he needed to pay a bill, their father would buy postal money orders, but in general he lives a debt free life. There is no home ownership. He has cheerily paid rent and lived in the same apartment with them since they arrived in the mountains. It was as if the whole family needed to disappear. Several days later I got an update on the scary rash. It was a staph infection. Gee whiz, I can't imagine where she might have gotten it. Knowing that it is very contagious I guess we can be so thankful that she does not interact with other people.

She had gone to a clinic in the next larger town, located 40 miles away. I did not ask her how she got there. She had been prescribed an antibiotic she turned out to be allergic to, and then was prescribed a second strain of antibiotic. The open sores had drained, and the rash now appeared as soft irritated red spots on her skin. I wondered if the wounds would scar. I looked up staph on Wikipedia, and learned that if you have this, keeping the sores clean is very important. For a mild case you can treat it by washing it carefully and letting the skin have air. Topical anti-biotic creams are another over the counter option.



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